Rally shows Wash won’t go down without a fight, but expect him to shoulder blame if Rangers miss playoffs

Posted Monday, Jul. 29, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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engel Mark this down: Ron Washington has two months to keep his job. If the Texas Rangers do not make the playoffs, this team will still need another bat, but it will also need someone to blame.

Also mark this down, as evidenced by their two-run ninth-inning to defeat the Angels on Monday night: Wash won’t let this happen without one mother of a fight.

Team CEO Nolan Ryan could have been in the grassy knoll 50 years ago and he would still keep his gig. GM Jon Daniels is the real Man of Steel. The Rangers can’t use the worst excuse in the baseball book and replace yet another batting coach.

This leaves blaming a manager who may outlive all of us up to and including cockroaches, Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.

Watching the Rangers again not score for most of the night but rally for a 4-3 win against the Angels with a pair of solo home runs in the bottom of the ninth inning is more proof that every time we want to write this team off we can’t. The manager won’t let us.

But was this fun really a sign of another season-saving turnaround, or merely an aberration and the club is preordained to miss the playoffs for the first time in four years? We won’t know for at least two months, but to underestimate this man and this team again after what both he and his team have done is stupid.

Know this, if Monday night was just a minor blip, and this thing crashes without the playoffs, do not be surprised if the Rangers play the “we need a new voice” card. Wash could write a set of books on How Not To Get Fired, but eventually everybody “gets got” in pro sports.

He is as entertaining and genuine as anyone in baseball, led the team to its most successful stretch in franchise history, was a strike away (twice) from a World Series title, and is about to become the winningest manager this team has ever employed.

I’m not a fan of blaming this particular manager because his guys play for him, but this is also pro sports, where managerial tenures should be measured in dog years. Wash has been around since 2007.

He is also not a baseball guy in the sense that the GM instinctively prefers. Wash relies on his instincts and feel whereas the GM is a spreadsheet guy. To their credit, the relationship has worked.

Wash has one year remaining on a contract for an ownership group that has demonstrated it will spend money on contracts and eat others.

Things are tight these days in Arlington, as evidenced by another closed-door meeting held by the manager Sunday in Cleveland after another dog-poop performance by an offense that was on a sabbatical until the ninth inning when it erupted for the rare two-run frame. By my math, that was meeting No. 3 for this team in the first four months of the season. That’s a lot; after one or two, guys tend to check out.

This team looks tight because it is tight, because it is not as good as it was the previous years. The Rangers are still playoff-caliber, but this is not the squad that went to consecutive World Series. It might not even be as good as last season’s.

Wash should be commended for the job he has done with a team that has been crushed by injuries to its starting pitching staff and that has received a distinct lack of production from left field, first base, center field and a high-dollar shortstop.

I asked Wash the (loaded) question if this team has adequately replaced the production from departed free agents Josh Hamilton and Mike Napoli.

“You know the answer to that,” he said.

I’m going with a giant “N-o.”

“You know the answer to that,” Wash said again with his customary smile.

Wash would never say it, and it might be too late, but he would be the first person to raise his hand on a trade that would return Michael Young to a team that simply does not generate the same vibe as it did the previous three seasons.

“It’s the same,” outfielder David Murphy insisted. “It’s awesome.”

Respectfully, even after Monday’s inspiring win, this is a hard sell.

The previous seasons had the deer and antler thing going. They were a fun bunch. The vibe was distinctly upbeat, confident and, above all else, as resilient as their manager. Every time we wrote them off they came back.

This team has never played dead under Wash. And Monday was more evidence that no team in baseball does “Not quit” any better than your Texas Rangers.

“We’re normally more resilient,” Murphy said. “It’s not like the effort is not there. It’s not just one thing.”

One-third of baseball’s 17-month season remains, but after four months let us be real: Oakland is the class of the American League West. The Rangers can be a wild-card team, which, thanks to Bud Selig, keeps your team very much in play for the postseason.

The Rangers have nine games remaining against the first-place A’s, six of which are in Oakland. That is plenty of time to close a gap that is the second-biggest for a second-place team.

Monday was so typical Rangers — they’re dead until they’re not, and then they’re going to make it to October.

So if you want to believe the Rangers are going to miss the playoffs, go ahead and mark it down ... just do it in pencil.

Mac Engel, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @macengelprof

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